Chaplaincy | Arguingdeveloper
The cost of arguments
Human beings are very good at arguing. You only need to look to the internet for proof!
Arguing comes naturally to us, even those of us who find conflict uncomfortable – we never needed to be taught how to argue.
I recently read that the average couple has somewhere in the range of 30 to 50 ‘significant’ arguments every year – a significant argument being one that would be uncomfortable to film and show friends, and might include the following: screaming, eye-rolling, histrionic accusations, slammed doors and/or name calling.
As naturally as arguing may come to us, it is not all fun and games.
In one of the last letters that he ever wrote, the Apostle Paul warned his young protégé Timothy:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. (2 Timothy 2:23-24)
Personally, I find it a relief that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy not to have anything to do with arguments per se. He knows that some arguments are healthy and necessary.
Rather, Paul says, don’t have anything to do with “foolish and stupid” arguments – the kind of arguments that are unhealthy and unnecessary. The kind that divide people and divert their attention from what’s really important in life. The kind that undermine, damage and destroy relationships over petty and insignificant things.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were very adept at starting these kinds of arguments.
They hated Jesus, and were so determined to catch him out, they were constantly trying to draw him into all sorts of foolish and stupid arguments, which were basically traps.
One of these traps is described in Chapter 12 of Mark’s Gospel:
18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
It’s an interesting (if not bizarre) question, though sadly not a genuine one.
As the Gospel-writer notes in verse 18, the Sadducees didn’t believe there would be a resurrection, and so weren’t really after an answer. They simply wanted to start a fight, generate some controversy, and hopefully catch Jesus in his own words.
The reality is, some people just want to argue, and they don’t care about picking the right time or place. They don’t care about how it might make others feel. Like the Sadducees, they might not even care about the issue that’s being argued about.
They just want to argue.
But there’s a cost to being argumentative like this.
It can cost you friends, when you find that people don’t really want to be around you anymore because they don’t feel safe.
It can cost you respect, when you gain a reputation for being difficult.
It can cost you your own capacity to learn and grow, when habitual arguing leads to the loss of genuine curiosity and interest in others.
And it’s not just you who loses by being argumentative; those around you suffer as well. When feelings are hurt. When time and energy and resources are wasted. When others’ opportunities to learn and grow are compromised, all because you couldn’t resist putting the boot in.
Paul tells Timothy:
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
I wonder what kind of effect it would have, if we were to take his words to heart.
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Nathan Lee | Assistant Chaplain